z p37 Sri Lanka

The government has fast-tracked the progress of many business-friendly reforms as Sri Lanka aims to move 20 notches higher in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index for 2019, from the 111th slot as per the 2018 rankings, a top official said.


Speaking to Business Observer, Assistant Director at the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, Anuradha Thilakaratne said a majority of the reforms are due to be completed in April 2018 just in time before the World Bank’s next assessment begins in May.

“In July this year, the government with a view to improve the present investment climate set up eight task forces based on the ten pillars of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business. Under this programme, at least half of the difficult reforms are due to complete in April,” Thilakaratne said.

Under the first task force of starting a business, Sri Lanka has targeted to fully digitize company registration related documents at Registrar of Companies with the assistance of the ICTA by April 2018. Under this project named eRoC, the requirement verification phase and the software requirement specification in the design phase have been completed, Thilakaratne said.

“We are also trying to establish a ‘Single Window’ for business registration by introducing a single identification system by April. The aim is to reduce the time taken to register a company to 1 day from the 9 days taken at present,” the Assistant Director said.

He pointed out that when complete, new companies will be able to register with multiple entities such as Registrar of Companies, Labor Department, Employees Provident Fund and Inland Revenue Department, through a single window.

“The second task Force is on registering a property. The plan is to roll out the eLR project to provide for search facilities based on the scanned pages of the Land Register by 31st January 2018. eLR folio on line search facility for the public will be ready to launch by next week as a pilot run,” Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, W A D S Gunasinghe said.

The six land registry areas that will be digitized in the first round are Colombo, Delkanda, Attanagalla, Jaffna, Mannar and Gampaha while the second round will comprise of 9 areas namely, Kotapola, Balapitiya, Elpitiya, Galle, Matugama, Kalutara, Tangalle, Matara and Hambantota.

On the third task force of dealing with construction permits, the government plans to fully automate issuing of construction permits for constructions of less than four floors through the eLocal Government Application by the Colombo Municipal Council. “A pilot program is set to begin soon while the deadline to automate work flows, applications and records at UDA to automate the construction permitting process for constructions more than 4 floors will be May 2018,” Gunasinghe added noting that once complete, the number of days to issue a construction permit will be reduced from the present 115 days to 60 days by 31st May 2018.

Secretary to the Ministry of Development Strategies & International Trade, Chandanie Wijayawardhana said the task forces have been given very specific targets to meet before mid next year.

“The eight task forces are working hard to complete this and they are expected to report directly to the Prime Minister who is personally reviewing the progress,” she pointed out. In addition, Sri Lanka also expects to complete the proposed Trade Information Portal (TIP) and the blueprint of the National Single Window (NSW) by the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy said the government has become more focused in terms of investment promotion and is working with a Harvard group to identify sub sectors where Sri Lanka could have comparative advantage and to attract anchor investors within those sub-sectors.

“For example, Samsung accounted for 40% of Vietnam’s exports at one point while Intel accounted for 75% of Costa Rica’s exports. So if you can get new anchor investors in sub-sectors where you are competitive, that can transform your exports promotion very quickly,” the Governor said at a recent lecture. Speaking on trade facilitation, the Governor said the new single window concept in customs will ensure an electronic paperless process while the Department of Commerce is also on the verge of putting up a trade portal collating a number of trade information. Sri Lanka is presently ranked 110th in the Ease of Doing Business Index rankings.

The eight task forces include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency to ensure needed reforms are implemented. “Improving on the Doing Business Index ranking from 110 to 70 in three years is an ambitious but achievable target. These reforms are focused on attracting, retaining and integrating foreign investments to the country,” Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama had earlier pointed out.


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